Ernest Koroma Misses the Point on Corruption
Not too long ago, the opposition leader, Mr. John Benjamin wrote a very concise and matter of fact letter to President Ernest Koroma on various issues bordering on governance, the economy and corruption. Unfortunately, it seems the president has ill-advisedly waved off these issues with frankly a very lame statement about whose hands are clean and cheap politics. In addition, the president is reported to have faulted Mr. Benjamin for not going directly to him to discuss issues. Other APC apologists have said those issues should be discussed in parliament. This article argues that these criticisms from the president and APC apologists are baseless, without merit and are evidence of a government caught with its pants down. (Photo: President Ernest Bai Koroma)
For starters, the letter was well written and it demonstrates an opposition gearing up for a hard knuckled yet civilized twenty first century debate. Sad though, the president in all honesty demonstrated a misplaced cavalier attitude to issues of such magnitude and importance. Here is a president whose sister and brother is accused and rightly so of wallowing in the cesspit of corruption and all he could do is ask whose hands are cleanest? Let us for the sake of argument agree that John Benjamin’s hands are not clean; what in the world has that got to do with you sister and brother Mr. President being corrupt?Â In a way the president is actually validating the accusations. The question President Koroma should be ask are whether in fact his sister is involved in no bid contracts and whether his brother received duty free concessions to the tune of a million dollars.
President Koroma should be mindful of the fact that Sierra Leoneans are not stupid. A couple of years ago the president’s sister Mrs. Admire Sesay was a lowly secretary who immediately resigned her position when her brother was declared the winner of the elections. Shortly after that she became a huge contractor. Curious minds have asked few questions such as how did she get so rich over night. The same could be said about the President’s younger brother Sylvanus Koroma, some one who could hardly keep a job at NPA. Almost immediately after the elections, this lowly first grade clerk at NPA became a rich merchant importing rice under Harmony Trading Company. Now Mr. President, if that does not smell fishy, then your olfactory organ needs examination.Â It is therefore not very surprising that Daddy SAJ in his latest single aptly referred to the APC government as “Jew man party…Koroma, friends and family property”.Â This is just a minute testament of the fact that John Benjamin just made official issues of which the average Sierra Leone is very much aware.
Another issue Mr. Benjamin dealt with was that of Vice President Sam-Sumana being sued for some shady deals carried out by Taakor Company. If suing a sitting Vice President for fraud, bribery and racketeering is cheap politics, then the president needs to know what expensive politics is notwithstanding the fact that his name was later dropped from the suit; the damage had already been done to the country. Various newspapers published the summons with the Vice Presidents name on it. If anything, a government that is serious about corruption would launch an investigation into a seemingly dubious company of which the Vice President is part owner.
Similar concerns were raised about the Foreign Minister, Mrs. Zainab Bangura who has been implicated in what clearly looks like fraudulent conversion.Â Newspapers yet again published a letter signed by the minister asking for free rice to be distributed to poor people only for her to allegedly divert that rice to her business partner. Mr. President that is no cheap politics; it is high handed day light robbery of the poor people by the APC government.
President Koroma suggests that Mr. Benjamin should have approached him about the issues highlighted in the letter. It is the contention of this article that Mr. Benjamin had no obligation to report these issues privately to the president. Secondly, Mr. Ernest Koroma may be president of Sierra Leone but he has not right to tell the opposition how they address issues of national importance as long as they are doing so within the ambits of the law. Third, President Koroma erroneously said the timing of the letter was wrong. How cruel! The president must realize that he has been in office for more than two years with things going from bad to worse. If he does not realize that the time to call him out on the incompetence and complicity of his government when it comes to governance and corruption, then Sierra Leone is in serious trouble.
APC apologists and indeed the president try to use the donor conference to deflect the criticisms from the opposition. It is appalling that the president and the APC government are once again not telling Sierra Leoneans the truth about the donor conference. For all intents and purposes, the donor conference was a waste of precious funds that could have been used for other pressing issues. The APC government expected pledges to be around $850m but could only scrape about $300m. The dishonesty about the $300m is that it was not pledged at the donors’ conference. The $300m is actually funds some of which had been promised to the Sierra Leone government as far back as 2007. According to sources, only Sanpha Koroma’s plan reaped any benefit. George Soros after having a discussion with Sanpha Koroma pledged $5m to a private bank. So the president and his merry men must be honest with the people and tell them that they wasted their meager resources for a donor conference that yielded precious little. As a matter of fact, the German government in no uncertain terms told the Sierra Leone government to start respecting women before they could pledge a dime. This in my estimation may not be unconnected with the alleged vicious rape of female members of the opposition by the president’s guard.
As usual the president’s press conference was full of high sounding nothings describing successes only he and his handlers can see. Yet he failed woefully to answer the following questions: Did your sister Mrs Admire Sesay receive no bid contracts? Was she qualified to get the contracts given the fact that these contracts are meant for people with past records in contract delivery? Where did your younger brother Sylvanus Koroma get the money to start up Harmony Trading Company? Did Sylvanus Koroma get an illegal duty free waiver to the tune of $1m? If so did you give the order for the waiver? Did your Foreign Minister Zainab Bangura fraudulenty convert and sell rice meant for free distribution? Mr. President, are you in fact the real owner of your younger brother’s trading company and that of Admire Sesay’s? Let me again end by quoting Daddy SAJ’s new single “Yu Go Lan,” “Papay nor to talks na works.”Â
Ernest B. Malamango
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